Evangelist fails to draw full house

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MORRIS CERULLO, an American evangelist who has been attacked for his fund-raising methods and unsubstantiated claims of miraculous healing, opened a week-long mission at Earl's Court in London yesterday, writes Andrew Brown.

The crowd on his first day was estimated at 9,000, and half-filled the auditorium he has hired this year. His first appeal was for worshippers to keep coming back. 'God said to me, 'If you give those few days, I am releasing a quickening faith that will mean you will never again be defeated by the devil'.'

God had also given him words of encouragement in the face of great criticism both of his fund-raising style and of his claims that miracles were freely available at his London meetings last year.

Mr Cerullo said: 'Satan is trying to divide the Body of Christ. But God told me, he said: 'Son, you tell my people I have marked Satan for open defeat.' God said: 'I am going to use you to unite God's people'.'

The worshippers who showed up seemed thoroughly committed to Mr Cerullo's style and agenda. Most were black; many came in families. They responded enthusiastically to dramatic, declamatory preaching and heavily amplified gospel music.

A group of disabled people harangued worshippers as they arrived at the auditorium, shouting 'Rights not miracles'.

(Photograph omitted)